As part of our ongoing Ask The Industry Expert Series, we recently announced our latest expert, Stefan Wittich, internationally touring musician and man at MusicDNA. You sent us the questions, we put them to the man.
IB: I’m interested in the fact that you’ve started working as a journalist and presenter while remaining a musician – would you say standing on both sides of the fence aids or hinders you in terms of band success
SW: I guess it always depends on the status of the band, but when I started out it was very beneficial. I had access to all releases as well as having contact with the labels. It really helped me understand the music business, how promotion works and to get in touch with labels that I really liked. As soon as I got really busy with the band I quit working as a presenter as for workflow and creativity, I found that it’s better to concentrate on only one thing. Now that I am back on both sides of the fence it can sometimes be hard to focus.
IB: MusicDNA sounds like a really useful tool, especially for us indie bands. Have you yourself booked tours based around the service?
SW: I’ve seen friends and colleagues using it. They discovered that they had good airplay in some Southern European countries and although they had never played in these countries, they booked the tour according to the musicDNA info. The tour was very successful. If you are an international artist it is a great tool to make decisions, discover unknown airplay and tour new countries.
For established artists, the service can help to make decisions where to play when there are more opportunities to tour.
A customer running a small indie label told me that thanks to our tool they found out that one of their bands was on heavy rotation on college radio in the US even though the label had never released anything abroad. Thanks to our data they released the album and booked a US tour immediately.
The bands I play in have booking agents, so I don’t do this myself, but I am constantly checking. One band had very good airplay on flux fm, which broadcasts in Berlin as well as in Stuttgart. Both gigs were sold out with four times more people attending than our average in cities with no airplay. Although eveyone thinks that radio is loosing its influence, the correlation between “airplay” and “success” is still very high.
IB: MusicDNA is obviously something which embraces technology and uses it for the good of musicians. You’ve played and toured for a long time: Do you find generally that the incredible and ongoing advances in technology are beneficial for indie musicians or not? HOw does the present landscape compare to say 15 years ago?
SW: Difficult questions. Sometimes I wish I had lived in the 70ies, but technological advances have always heavily influenced music on both the producer and the consumer side.
In the seventies you had to play your instrument and get your part right, no editing or quantizing. Back then, due to a growing interest in hi-fi sound systems, there was room for layers and instrumental parts, even on radio.
Starting around 15 years ago, technology began to enable us to record professionally in our bedrooms, but we listen to music on computers with tiny speakers where there is only room for a beat and a voice.
IB: Would love to try the MusicDNA thing…what are the pricing systems like? Do you have a free trial type thing for independent bands starting out?
SW: Yes, we have starter packages, plus a special deal for VUT members (the German Independent Music Companies Association)
If you have a new release and you have done some radio promotion, it is definitely worth checking out. If you are unsure, then start with a small package for a short period of time.
IB: MusicDNA sounds great but I can’t help thinking it’s the kind of thing that for example GEMA and other rights societies should provide for their members. What do you think? Has there been any interest from songwriting royalties institutions about using it?
SW: We are in constant talks but the fact is that there is a lot of protectionism. We could definitely help here. Rights Societies use a lot of manpower to collect playlist, which is actually the author’s money. There is still a lot of airplay that cannot be attributed to the members, most of the times, these are the tracks of independent artists not complying with the standard procedures of format radio.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.